About a week ago I was struck with an idea to investigate how goalies who had a heavy workload during the regular season fared in the playoffs. After all, with the new trend going towards inexpensive goalies, it’s worth taking a look at goalies in general seeing as how those inexpensive goalies that have been successful of late in the NHL all had reasonably light workloads during the regular season. It seemed like a great idea to see if there was any correlation in recent NHL history or if this was truly an aberration year.
In a show of proof that in the Internet writing world you have to move fast lest you get beaten to the punch, Dustin Berfiend at SBN’s Mile High Hockey broke down how goalies that have played 80% or more of their teams games have done since the lockout. The findings might startle you a bit if you’re a fan of goalies that start a ton of games for your team during the year.
Every season there is a debate about whether it’s smart to have a workhorse goalie. Some of the best goaltenders in the league (Martin Brodeur, Miikka Kiprusoff, Evgeni Nabokov, Henrik Lundqvist, etc.) routinely start upwards of 70 games a year. Most of these teams are fairly successful (even the Rangers have made it to the playoffs every season except last since the lockout) but none of those goalies have won a Cup since the lockout. In fact, none of them have even been in a Stanley Cup final.
While we’re sure that fans of these teams and goalies were already aware of the lack of Stanley Cup victories, these findings lend themselves to the growing belief that overpaying for goaltending is a colossal waste of valuable cap space.
What Berfiend discovered is that 39 times since the lockout have goalies played in 80% or more of their team’s games. Of those 39 times, 14 of those teams missed the playoffs completely (35.8%) and 13 others were bounced out in the first round of the playoffs (33.3%). That’s 27 out of 39 (69%) of those workhorse goalies failing to get their teams even a slight modicum of success. If you’re willing to hang your hat on a team making the playoffs and calling that a great season then that’s your prerogative, but your team isn’t winning the Stanley Cup, at least not in this era.
What was most startling to read was how little regular season work goalies who played in the Stanley Cup finals got. Berfiend got that research done as well.
2005-2006: Dwayne Roloson started 42 games while Cam Ward started just 25 regular season games.
2006-2007: Ray Emery started 56 games while Jean-Sebastian Giguere started 53.
2007-2008: Chris Osgood started in 40 games while Marc-Andre Fleury started in 33.
2008-2009: Same two goalies, slightly different workload. Osgood started 44 while Fleury started in 61.
2009-2010: Antti Niemi started 35 games for Chicago while Michael Leighton started in 31 for Philly.
Out of all those, the goalie who saw the most work in his teams respective Finals appearance also managed to win the Stanley Cup (Fleury). A goalie getting worn down as the season goes along is nothing new and is something that should be counted upon, but overworking a goalie to keep your team alive throughout the regular season is something coaches should be keeping a better eye on. While having a great goalie like Roberto Luongo or Martin Brodeur does wonders for your team all throughout the year, keeping them fresh for when the games matter the most has to be vital to what any coach and any team that wants to win the Stanley Cup.